THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN KUWAIT Course: Name: Date: Table of Contents Introduction 3 The Traditional Role of Women in Kuwait 3 The Changing Role of Women in Kuwait 5 Conclusion 8 References 11 Introduction The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the role of women in Kuwait…
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This assessment is conducted with respect to three distinct time periods in Kuwaiti history that is the Pre-Oil Kuwait, the Post-Independence Kuwait and Modern Kuwait. The Traditional Role of Women in Kuwait Before the discovery of oil in Kuwait, the country’s economic situation was at its worse. This is reflected in the fact that during the Pre-Oil period, the nation was classified as one of the poorest countries in the world (Shelash, 1985). The traditional Kuwaiti society was essentially diversified in its sustenance, with dependency upon several industries such as fishing, while, agriculture did not play a significant role in the country’s GDP. In this simple setup, gender roles were highly stereotypical, where the male member of the house acted as the head of the family as well as the provider and economic caretaker of the house. Shelash (1985) noted that the man of the house also enjoyed complete authority over other members of the family, especially women in matters relating to marriage and other important decisions pertaining to the affairs of the household. Therefore, in the traditional Kuwaiti society, women had no participation whatsoever in the arrangements and affairs of the family either economically or socially. Moreover, male dominance in the attribution of roles was so stringent that any woman who was caught violating the rules faced serious and severe repercussions. Shelash (1985) concluded that such practices reflected the existence of immense discrepancies and inequalities between the rights of men and women. Men, in traditional Kuwaiti society enjoyed freedom to choose their wives while, women had no say in matters relating to marriage. This further stems the notion that the role of Kuwaiti women has traditionally been limited to accommodating to the needs and wants of the men of the society which for commentators such as Shelash (1985) is reflective of the submissive role of women in pre-independence Kuwait. Several commentators have sought to explore the relationship between the roles of women in countries of the Arabian Peninsula such as Kuwait, the cultural implications of their status in their countries and Islam. Shelash (1985) concludes that the seemingly passive role that Kuwaiti women were traditional expected to abide by in the Pre-Oil era of the country was a result of culture rather than the teachings of Islam. The Kuwaiti culture expected women to be docile and submissive citizens, whose roles were limited to that of mother, wife, daughter and sister (Keedie and Beck, 1978:26). Educational opportunities in traditional Kuwait were also limited and highly restricted for girls; it was not until three years before the country’s independence in June 1961 that the female population was able to go to school, significant discrepancy in the gender-based percentage of students attending school in Kuwait remained till the period of 1961-1962, as male attendance in educational institutions greatly surpassed the percentage of female students in the classroom (Shelash, 1985). Rizzo (2005) asserts that in the case of Kuwait, the role of women has been traditionally associated with her family along with the cultural and religious values of the country. This view postulates that despite of the progress that Kuwait has experienced as a consequence of the discovery of its oil-reserves and even with its subsequent transformation into an industrialized and modern society, past, present and previous Kuwaiti governments have
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